Business news portal muula.ch took a critical look at a company’s half-year results. Now the CEO of the insurance group concerned is resigning.
The article had caused quite a stir. Switzerland’s newest business news portal muula.ch recently analyzed the video on the half-year results of the insurance group Helvetia.
Group CEO Philipp Gmuer (in German: Gmür) had simply picked out any developments of the insurer and omitted comparative figures or failed to mention the negative points. In addition, he looked rather strange in a turquoise room with a dotted tie and striped jacket.
Hat suddenly taken off
The article had been the subject of discussion, especially among insurance circles. The tenor was that a CEO with a large contingent of communications experts should not really present himself in public like that.
On Tuesday morning the St. Gallen-based insurer surprisingly announced that Gmuer would step down in mid-2023 and that the company had initiated the search for a new Group CEO.
Now, the article on muula.ch is unlikely to have provided the main reason for the resignation. Rather, in the eyes of countless observers, it was the infamous straw that finally broke the camel’s back.
As muula.ch has learned, Gmuer’s track record since taking office in September 2016 is anything but praiseworthy. For example, a reorganization that he initiated was reversed, piecemeal over time, and now ultimately resembles the structure that Gmuer’s predecessor, Stefan Loacker, had put in place.
Gmuer also strongly promoted digitization within the insurance industry. However, he took the traditional view that insurance products had to be sold because they would not do so by themselves.
The processes at the insurer were then just as antiquated – for example, with the expansion of their telephone service.
Stock exchange rules broken
It was also said that Gmuer’s personnel policy had attracted criticism. For example, he pulled many cadres from his original field of activity, Helvetia’s Swiss unit, right up to the group level. Thus increasingly narrowing the scope of the group’s entire field of activity, according to our sources.
And it wasn’t just that embarrassing video about the half-year results that raised eyebrows. Helvetia is even said to have broken SIX stock exchange rules, and in at least one case not making an ad hoc announcement available to all market participants before the start of trading – as required.
Certainly, Gmuer is not directly responsible for such matters. However, as Group CEO, he must ultimately take responsibility for those errors.
muula.ch specifically asked the SIX Exchange Regulation (SER) about the stock exchange incident. “If there are sufficient indications of a violation of regulations, then an investigation will be opened and the opening of the investigation will be communicated accordingly,” however, a SER media spokesperson generally stated, without wanting to go into the specific case of Helvetia.
Ultimately, SER supervisors also announced the conclusion of an incident and sanctions, but without naming any company specifically concerned. So in this respect, the public remains rather in the dark.
In addition to the usual words of thanks, Helvetia’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Thomas Schmuckli, is also quoted directly in the media release: “Philipp Gmuer has left a lasting mark on Helvetia Group,” it says. Outsiders can only guess what that sentence is meant to convey.
The fact that there is a very long transition period at the time of departure to “mid-2023” indicates that Gmuer was not simply to be shown the door after his almost 30 years of service with the Helvetia Group, 13 of which as Country Head Switzerland.
However, the fact that Helvetia is not yet able to present any solution for a successor also shows that this change was brought about rather abruptly.
Gmuer, a lawyer by training, is now looking forward to “taking on other tasks outside the Helvetia Group,” as the communiqué put it.
In any case, the former Helvetia Group CEO sits on the board of directors of Allreal Holding and the Grand Casino Lucerne. He also sits on the board of Economiesuisse and the foundation board of the think tank Avenir Suisse, according to the insurer.
His career will therefore certainly be followed with much interest by muula.ch.